The Grapevine

The Boiling Water Challenge Is Dangerous, Here's Why

You may have seen the viral videos on social media where, in an effort to demonstrate just how low temperatures have dipped, people are throwing boiling water into the air to watch it instantly turn into a cloud of snow.

But no matter how fascinating it seems, you should definitely not be trying this stunt — as is the case with most internet challenges, there is a good chance someone could get seriously hurt.

At least eight people who took part in the "Boiling Water Challenge" were rushed to the burn center of Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago, over the past week or so. "We strongly warn people to not perform the boiling water challenge," said Dr. Arthur Sanford, a burn surgeon at Loyola, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "There is no safe way to do it."

Patients were reported to have suffered second-degree and third-degree burns on their feet, arms, hands, and even their face. Sanford noted that a majority of cases may need an operation because of how deep the burns were.

As explained by Gizmodo back in 2017, the dangerous stunt is based on something known as the Mpemba effect — a process by which water tends to freeze faster when hot than when cold. 

But as a result of bad aim or other factors, the boiling water may accidentally end up falling back on the person. While burns can be treated with the help of bandages and antibiotics, some of the severe cases may require skin grafts.

So far, the victims have been reported to be as young as three and as old as 53. Moreover, some of them were simply bystanders and not active participants in the challenge. Angie Whitley, the clinical care supervisor of the burn center at Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota, confirmed that even children are at risk after seeing young patients come in with injuries.

Due to excitement or simply being distracted, they suffer burns as they step in the way while their parents are tossing the hot water into the air. "Or, people throw it in the air just as a gust of wind comes, and (the water) catches the wind and it blows it back on them — so we see some face scald injuries from that," Whitley told CNN

If someone has suffered a first-degree burn, which is comparable to sunburn, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following these steps. Second-degree and third-degree burns, which involve blisters and potential loss of skin, require immediate medical attention.

As a large part of the United States has been affected by the polar vortex over the past few weeks, there are other simple steps you can take to stay safe in extremely low temperatures.